Recycling pickup

The city of Durango’s single-stream recycling program is, on the whole, a superlative addition to its waste-management offerings. The lengthy list of items accepted in the conveniently large blue bins is a dramatic increase from the formerly limited universe of recyclables and most participating residents have seen a corresponding decrease in the amount of trash they send to the transfer station. That is a net positive, and we commend the city for investing in single-stream technology. In requiring most residents to wheel their blue bins to the street rather than the alley, though, the city has missed the mark.

For the 3,000 participating households, the convenience of curbside, multimaterial, unsorted recycling is a boon that reduces the net waste city residents produce and extends through many generations of materials saved because of recycling. That participation should be encouraged, within reason, not quashed by the city’s inconsistent pickup policy that allows garbage pickup in the alleys, but not so recycling. While the alleys might provide a less-than-ideal scenario for the city’s automated trucks, they are proven to work well enough. The alternative – kicking recycling to the curb – is not an option for some city residents, whose homes have no street-accessible place to store garbage or recycling bins.

The city has made accommodations for garbage bins in that scenario, despite the director of operation’s wishes otherwise, but is apparently holding a firm line on recycling carts. This means some residents face the choice of taking their recycling for a walk down the alley, around the corner and out to the curb or not participating in the program. There is no need for the city to be such a stickler.

At least one recycling truck driver knew this and chose to pick up alley-placed recycling anyway. There appears to be no harm in him having made the concession for residents’ convenience, but for whatever reason, he is no longer a city employee and the curbside pickup rule is being fully enforced. What a shame.

Ours is a small community that has the flexibility to adapt to various logistical challenges, be it on the city side or on the part of its residents. In this case, the city should be compelled toward responsiveness. Garbage is picked up in the alleys, and even though it would apparently be much easier for the city if that were not the case, it is nonetheless feasible. There is no reason why that same logic cannot be applied to recycling. The driver who was making exceptions recognized that. His superiors should, as well.

The city of Durango – its government and its residents – would be best served by avoiding a tendency toward the one-size-fits-all answer. While being overly accommodating is not reasonable, being rule-bound is even less so. The city has the means to meet residents’ needs when it comes to recycling pickup. Why not do so?

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